A massive policy change by YouTube concerning videos about firearms has forced many channel creators to experiment with unconventional and interesting ways of keeping their videos alive, from posting them on social media to listening to them on adult video sites.
While firearms channels, companies and enthusiasts have been at odds with the platform for many years now (including demonetization of videos, restricting videos and even taking them down without notification), the online video giant has taken the issue a step further, seemingly bending to knee-jerk demands of tighter “online gun control” following the mass shooting in Parkland Florida
According to their website, YouTube prohibits certain kinds of content featuring firearms, including content that:
Intends to sell firearms or certain firearms accessories through direct sales (e.g., private sales by individuals) or links to sites that sell these items. These accessories include but may not be limited to accessories that enable a firearm to simulate automatic fire or convert a firearm to automatic fire (e.g., bump stocks, gatling triggers, drop-in auto sears, conversion kits), and high capacity magazines (i.e., magazines or belts carrying more than 30 rounds).
Provides instructions on manufacturing a firearm, ammunition, high capacity magazine, homemade silencers/suppressors, or certain firearms accessories such as those listed above. This also includes instructions on how to convert a firearm to automatic or simulated automatic firing capabilities.
Shows users how to install the above-mentioned accessories or modifications.
The action seems to highlight two troubling trends that YouTube has committed to in recent years: suppressing free speech and taking political sides. From demonetizing conservative channels such as that of late-night comedian Steven Crowder to effectively pledging to sweep a large chunk of gun videos off of the platform, YouTube appears to be picking sides and silencing any entity that doesn’t agree with political views espoused by their leadership.
To make matters worse, the new guidelines effectively cripple businesses that sell firearms or even accessories, as YouTube allows aforementioned companies to demonstrate products and then share the videos with embedding codes.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry lobbying group and safety organization, called YouTube’s new policy “worrisome.”
“We suspect it will be interpreted to block much more content than the stated goal of firearms and certain accessory sales,” the foundation said in a statement. “We see the real potential for the blocking of educational content that serves instructional, skill-building and even safety purposes. Much like Facebook, YouTube now acts as a virtual public square. The exercise of what amounts to censorship, then, can legitimately be viewed as the stifling of commercial free speech.”
While YouTube is set to begin enforcing their policies in April, some YouTube content creators have already initiated preemptive countermeasures to retain and preserve their content- with some taking more unconventional routes than others.
According to Bloomberg (which is ironically owned and named after former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chairman of the anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety), YouTube channel InRange TV has begun uploading videos to PornHub, an adult video website.
“YouTube’s newly released vague and one-sided firearms policy makes it abundantly clear that YouTube cannot be counted upon to be a safe harbor for a wide variety of views and subject matter,” InRange TV wrote. “PornHub has a history of being a proactive voice in the online community, as well as operating a resilient and robust video streaming platform.”
Meanwhile, some channels -such as Florida-based firearms manufacturer Spike’s Tactical- have already been shut down over “repeated violations.”
“Well, since we’ve melted some snowflakes on YouTube and got banned, might as well set [Instagram] and FB on fire!,” Spike’s wrote on Facebook, where it has over 111,000 followers.
A YouTube spokeswoman said that Spike’s channel has been reinstated after it was mistakenly removed. However, several channels report being “mistakenly removed” in the past few months, with most of them having a common series of content threads.
If you’re in the firearms industry and looking for alternative advertising opportunities in lieu of the “YouTube-pocalypse,” feel free to reach out for special offers on some of the internet’s most popular military, law enforcement and first responder media sites.
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